More than 8m Britons have downloaded podcasts

Once listening to the radio was a strictly linear experience. Miss a programme and you had to wait for a repeat, in the unlikely event that it was repeated at all.

Not any more. The latest research commissioned by radio audience measurement body Rajar reveals that 8.1 million people in the UK – 16% of the adult population – have downloaded a podcast, with nearly half of them (44%) listening to such a service at least once a week.

The popularity of smartphones is also changing the way we listen to the radio: 6.6 million adults (13% of the population) have listened on their mobile phone at least once, and 2.2 million downloaded a radio app, a 57% increase in less than six months. The last survey, in May, put the download figure at 1.4 million.

But it's not an entirely digital experience – more than half of people listening to the radio on their mobile did so using a specific preset on analogue FM, compared with 16% running an app for a specific station.

The research, carried out by Ipsos Mori last month, also suggested that 16.3 million people have listened to the radio via the internet, and 12.7 million have used a listen-again service such as the BBC's iPlayer.

Around three-quarters of podcast users (76%) and listen-again listeners (72%) said it had no impact on the amount of live radio they listen to, in many instances enabling them to listen to new programmes that they had not previously heard.

The finding will be warmly welcomed by the industry, a sign that the new technology is expanding radio consumption rather than cannibalising it.

Of podcast users, 77% listened to them at home, and 50% in car and on public transport. Comedy and music were the two most popular podcast genres.

The Rajar research manager, Christel Swift, said: "Listening to radio via smartphones has grown rapidly over the past year or so and this is reflected in the number of people who claim to have downloaded a radio app, which now stands at just over a quarter of smartphone owners.

"This development is excellent news for radio on the go and represents a real opportunity for the radio industry."

However, Wi-Fi radio has some way to go before it catches up with the popularity of personalised online radio (POR) services such as last.fm. A total of 2.6 million people used a POR service at least once a week, and while 6.5 million people said they had heard of W-Fi radio, only 2% claimed to own one.

The survey findings are based on 1,091 respondents as part of the Rajar Measurement of Internet Delivered Audio Services (Midas 7).

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